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Thursday, October 15, 2009

"Demon in the Chelly," a Halloween-spirited poem by Ray Van Horn, Jr.




You can't quite see it in this copy, but my piece "Demon in the Chelly" was inspired by a breathtaking image of the Canyon de Chelly, photographed by Ansel Adams in 1948...and quite possibly a keen love of Halloween two months before its due arrival...


Demon in the Chelly
Ray Van Horn, Jr.


maybe it was Pezazu
that puke-inducing hellraiser from The Exorcist
maybe it was Lilith
compulsory guardian of this craggy wasteland
or maybe it was that tetchy pile of rubble
Rockbiter from The Never-Ending Story
but I assure you
as much as I know Kansas is flatter than hours-poured beer
there’s a demon in that otherwise impenetrable canyon

the wraith’s been shacked up there for centuries
I can tell by its stories-high,
wind-worn and perpetually pissed-off countenance
snarling an ecological caveat
to anyone spotting it amidst the majesty of the baking gorge it calls home

it likely devoured cowboys and Mennonites
before the Navajo chased the former into California, the latter into Pennsylvania
these days it likely inhales parasailers and climbers
and snacks on thunderbird-enamored tourists
invading outer rim reservations with soul-stealing digital clicks
freshening up at pueblo-styled chain hotels Custer would’ve found novel
and strapping on newly-purchased Canyon de Chelly souvenir shirts
suburbanerds straining their sedans into the steep gangways of sandstone chapels
genuflecting amongst the coyotes, antelope and scrub jays
and peeling off wonderstruck utterances such as
“Behold, the amazing work of God!”

while the demon, imprisoned within its coulee cell
takes iniquitous exception
and whistles odium down the barren chasms below
like the dubiously merged soundtrack
to a spaghetti western-meets-slasher film

it flosses its entrenched boulder teeth with rattlers
and it coughs up tarantulas
always parched amidst the choking aridness of its containment
with far-flung cactus juice ridiculing it from the ravine floor

woe be the unsuspecting American traveler
drifting by in steel wagons robed in travel-cracked bumper stickers
with Earth, Wind and Fire swooning soulfully
vomiting burger wrappers
out of rolled-down windows
obtuse to malignant possessors from the rocks
who threaten priests with gruesome avowals
and return the retching favor twofold

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